The brothers Busch, Kurt and Kyle, combined to lead most of the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. In the end, older brother Kurt won out over younger brother Kyle to claim his first win of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“Hell yeah, we beat Kyle,” Kurt Busch said. “I taught that kid everything he knows; he should be grateful. What a battle. What a genuine, awesome, old-school race track, and I just asked the track today, last time here on your old asphalt, can I have an old guy win, and she answered. Thank you, Atlanta Motor Speedway. This has been one of those years where I knew we were going to have our back up against the wall with trying to get above the cutoff line and race hard and race smart, and to have GearWrench in victory lane. This is their last race of the year. They’re with us all year, and with Monster Energy, I couldn’t have two greater primary sponsors. What a Chevrolet today. Hell, yeah!”
Kurt Busch led a race-high 144 laps, while Kyle Busch led 91 laps of the 260-lap race.
Kyle Busch took the lead from his older brother during the final cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 212, but on lap 237, Kurt Busch retook command of the race with an assist from Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Ross Chastain, who held up Kyle Busch.
“Shake and bake! Shake and bake! Yeah, and the 42 [Chastain], he did his job as a teammate,” Kurt Busch said. “Ross is going to get a little flak for it, but that’s what it takes to be a good teammate at the right moment, so I couldn’t be more proud of Ross Chastain.”
Kyle Busch, though, wasn’t quite as understanding of Chastain and Kurt Busch’s teammate relationship.
“It’s just the same as always. We just don’t have enough front end with laps on tires,” Kyle Busch said. “I had everything I had early in the run and, then, just smoked it behind the 42 [Chastain], obviously. It shows you what kind of driver he is. Just tried to fight hard after that when I got passed and had one valiant effort off of two, but didn’t have enough momentum to drag him down and make him go high in three and four, and after that, the tires were smoked. Great effort. Guys gave me a great piece. We were fast. The #1 [Kurt Busch] was definitely better than us today. I just thought I had him. And we did. But racing just didn’t play out that way for us. The Skittles Gummies Camry was fast, and thanks to Toyota, TRD, Rowdy Energy Drink, Interstate Batteries, all the guys. Good piece, just not quite good enough, just needed a tick more.”
Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. finished second and third. Truex’s top-five came after dropping to the back at the start of the race because of two pre-race inspection failures.
“It’s funny you look at results, and oh, you started fifth and finished third; that’s a pretty good day,” Truex said, referring to his official starting position. “We went through a lot today on our Auto Owners Toyota Camry. I’m excited to have them on board again and have a good run for them. We definitely had the speed to battle for the win at the end, just had to come from too far back. I’m proud of everyone at JGR, Toyota, TRD. Everyone at the shop is working really hard getting our stuff better. It just had the feel I was looking for today. We were good on the short runs and good on the long runs. I’m glad to be back running up front.”
Alex Bowman was fourth, and Ryan Blaney finished fifth.
“It was definitely a long, hard-working day,” Blaney said. “We weren’t that good, to be honest with you. The front was pretty numb. The rear was stepping out and just kind of all over the place, and we worked on it all day and just got a little bit better and a little bit better. That long run there at the end kind of played in our favor. We kind of got going there pretty good at the end, but, overall, not a bad day for our Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang and back to running top-five, which is good for us. We’ve been struggling a little bit lately, but proud of everybody on the 12 group today.”
Each brother took an 80-lap stage win. Kyle Busch started second to reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and took the lead from the pole sitter on lap 14. On lap 41, Kurt Busch passed one of his brother’s JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin, for second.
After Kyle Busch won stage one, Kurt Busch beat little brother out of the pits to take the lead. Kurt Busch, then, led most of the second stage, with the exception being laps during a cycle of green-flag pit stops about halfway through the second stage.
Kurt Busch returned to the lead before the cycle of stops completed, passing Ryan Preece, who had yet to pit, to retake the top position on lap 133.
Kurt Busch continued to run up front until taking his stage win at lap 160.
Days after track officials announced plans to begin a repave and refiguring of the Atlanta track the week following Sunday’s race, the Quaker State 400 was red-flagged for 19 minutes after the completion of the second stage to fill a pothole in turn four. When the race resumed, Kurt Busch continued to lead.
Aside from an early-race competition caution and yellow flags after each of the first two stages, the yellow flag waved only once for an on-track incident — a crash involving Cody Ware, Daniel Suarez and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on lap 31.
Tyler Reddick finished sixth, Elliott was seventh, Christopher Bell eighth, Matt DiBenedetto was ninth, and Kurt Busch finished 10th.
QUAKER STATE 400 RESULTS